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National Assembly panels raise 2020 budget by N710b

By Igho Akeregha Adamu Abuh and John Akubo, Abuja
05 December 2019   |   4:28 am
The National Assembly may raise the N10.33 trillion 2020 budget presented to the lawmakers by President Muhammadu Buhari. Indeed, the Senate Committee on Appropriation may have raised the capital component of the budget by N450 billion

– Ministry denies N2.7b allocation for constituency projects

The National Assembly may raise the N10.33 trillion 2020 budget presented to the lawmakers by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Indeed, the Senate Committee on Appropriation may have raised the capital component of the budget by N450 billion, The Guardian learnt yesterday. It was learnt that the panel had, in the first instance, increased the budget by N500 billion but later decided to reduce it by N50 billion shortly before submitting its report at yesterday’s plenary session by the chairman, Barau Jibrin.

Thereafter, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, promised the lawmakers that copies of the bill would be made available to them in preparation for its final passage. He said that the circulation would be done immediately the committee concluded the printing of the report.

The Guardian learnt that the increase was meant to take care of exigencies that were not captured in the capital allocation of the various ministries, departments and agencies of government. It was further learnt that the relevant executive bodies lobbied the senators to make the necessary additions to the capital expenditure.

The Senate is expected to commence debate on the committee’s report on the 2020 budget today.

Also yesterday, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Muktar Betara, presented the report on the 2020 Appropriation Bill during plenary presided over by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila.

The report reflected the total sum of N10.6 trillion, indicating the addition of about N260 billion to the estimates of ₦10.33 trillion earlier presented by President Buhari. It stated that out of the over ₦10.6 trillion, ₦560.47 billion is for statutory transfers, which also indicates an increase from the estimates of N556.7 billion initially presented.

The debt service reflected an increase from N2.45 trillion estimates to approximately ₦2.725 trillion. The recurrent (non-debt) expenditure was put around ₦4.843 trillion which showed a reduction from ₦4.88 trillion initially presented.

Approximately ₦2.465 trillion is for contribution to the development fund for capital expenditure for the year ending on December 31, 2020.

President Buhari had on October 8 presented the budget proposal of N10.33 trillion to a joint session of National Assembly and the lawmakers commenced work on it the next day.

The bill passed second reading on October 15. Since then the various ministries, departments and agencies had appeared before different committees of the National Assembly to defend their budget proposals.

The senate president has repeatedly said that the National Assembly will pass the budget before the Christmas holiday to return the budget cycle to January to December.

The N10.33trillion fiscal document presented by President Buhari was predicated on some parameters which include oil benchmark at $57, the exchange rate of N305 to the dollar, oil production of 2.18 mbpd, capital expenditure of N2.14trillion, recurrent expenditure of N4.88trillion and debt service of N2.45trillion.

Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice and Solicitor-General of the Federation, Mr. Dayo Apata (SAN), has said the ministry has zero allocation for a constituency or zonal intervention projects in the 2019 budget.

Apata said this in a statement issued by Dr. Umar Gwandu, the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Office of the Minister, yesterday in Abuja .

In a letter dated December 3, 2019, and addressed to the chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC), Apata described media reports on the matter as erroneous, mischievous and misleading.

He said that the attention of the attorney-general and minister of justice was drawn to the publication in a national daily on December 2 where the ministry was alleged to have inserted N2.7 billion in its 2019 appropriation for community projects.

“The report prompted the reaction and rebuttal of the said misleading publication and to as well avail the authentic data at our disposal which is in harmony with the 2019 Appropriation by the National Assembly for the ministry.”

The permanent secretary said for the avoidance of doubt, it was of paramount importance to state that the Federal Ministry of Justice had no constituency project in its budgets as a ministry.

He added that after a thorough investigation, the ministry realised that two agencies under its supervision; the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) had provisions for constituency projects due to their statutory functions.

“While NAPTIP was allocated N110 million, NDLEA has N766.46 million which amount to N876.46 million as against the N2.7 billion published by the media.”